One of the most essential qualities one must cultivate to be established in Self (Truth) is solitude. Because Truth reveals in all its glory in Silence and one gains the alertness and clarity to pierce through the layers of erroneous thinking and be established in the Self. . It is quintessential for a Seeker.
I have heard many people telling that “one need not leave home or renounce anything, one should be like a lotus leaf in a water pond and untouched by it”. That may be so. Yet, all the saints and sages who inspire me from all religions have renounced, became house-less wandering seekers and have spent some time in solitude before they have attained the establishment in the Truth – Buddha, Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharshi, Guru Nanak, Sadasiva Brahmendra, the Russian Christian Pilgrim (The Pilgrim book) etc. To be untouched by water and to be like a lotus leaf seemed to be the goal, where as during the “Seeking” stage one sees oneself being touched and influenced by the external situations, people, places, events. There is a gap that needs to be reconciled. Swami Sivananda has explained very well in “The Kingly Science and Secret” that sometimes simply saying “One should be like Janaka, untouched even though involved in the worldly activities” does not always do justice to the seeking. One MUST learn to be in solitude, to gain strength and clarity and conviction in the Self-Knowledge. Because of this, one gains detachment, thereby wisdom to re-enter the world.
Today, I was reading through some articles by Swami Krishnanada ji and I came across the article called “The Importance of Being Alone” which is very valuable and helpful for Sadhana. I am greatly inspired by Swamiji, though I never met him. His writings carry a firm and deep conviction and clarity. Hari had the privilige to meet him in Rishikesh in 1995 or so, when Swamiji, upon knowing that Hari was an engineering student, advised him “Make Self-engineering your subject !” What an insightful advice !
I am just posting an excerpt from the article here:
“One of the essential conditions the seeker of yoga is called upon to bear in mind is ekantavasa, or sequestration, solitude. These days, wrong notions are driven into people’s minds by inexperienced teachers who say that we can be in the midst of a city and yet practise sadhana. Though this goes on very well and sounds fine as a theory and a doctrine, it is a total impossibility when we actually try to practise it. The ancient masters who said that solitude is necessary were not fools. Though in the end, in the consummation, it may be possible for us to find a solitary forest in the thick of New York City, consummation should not be identified with the beginning. That would be like putting the cart before the horse.
In this connection, I am reminded of a very homely analogy of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Fire consumes ghee. Any amount of ghee that we pour on fire will be burnt by the fire. Yes, this is a great truth, a fact known to everyone. But suppose we pour a mound of ghee over a spark of fire; will it burn the ghee? The fire itself will be extinguished. The fire should first become a huge conflagration. Then we can pour the entire fuel of the world into it, and it shall burn it to ashes. Our fire of aspiration will then be capable—only then, and not before—to burn all the dirt and dust of this world even if it is thrown upon it in huge heaps. But when we are only a struggling spark who has not been able to take even the first step in yoga, if the whole weight of the world is to sit upon us, what will happen? We cannot face it. We will be crushed to dust.“
Just being aloof, not having any friends, spending time in reading novels, watching movies etc is not “aloneness” or “solitude”, though it may appear that way sometimes, but being in a state of “alert lone-ness” where the mind is engaged in contemplation on the Self and thorough examination of the world to grasp the substratum behind it – that is the solitude we are speaking of for a seeker.
I strongly encourage all of us to read the full article titled “The Importance of Being Alone – by Swami Krishnanandaji” and be highly benefitted.
Unto the Divine,
Aparna & Hari